With its physical and mental benefits, running attracts countless teenagers. Along with the many positives of running can come a risk for knee pain.
Student athletes who participate in sports that involve repetitive knee movements can become susceptible to knee pain. This includes not only running but also activities that involve jumping and pivoting.
“Adolescents are in a stage of rapid growth and development, which can result in muscle imbalances and biomechanical changes,” says Dr. David Hirschi, a Non-Surgical Sports Medicine Specialist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “These changes, combined with the repetitive stress of activities like running, can lead to increased pressure on the knee joint, resulting in pain.”
The discomfort of runner’s knee can become debilitating and affect the athlete’s performance and overall well-being. With proper awareness and preventive measures, teens can minimize their risk.
What Lead to Runner’s Knee
Certain factors can make young people more vulnerable to developing runner’s knee. These include:
- Overuse and Poor Training Habits: Teens often push themselves too hard to reach their athletic goals. Overtraining and inadequate rest can lead to excessive strain on the knee joint, contributing to runner’s knee.
- Muscle Imbalances: Growing at different rates, the muscles in a teenager’s body may develop unevenly. This can lead to imbalances around the knee joint, causing improper tracking of the patella (kneecap) and subsequent pain.
- Biomechanical Factors: Natural variations in a teenager’s biomechanics can increase the risk of developing runner’s knee. These can include foot pronation (inward rolling) and poor alignment of the lower limbs.
- Inadequate Footwear: Wearing improper or worn-out shoes while participating in sports can exacerbate knee pain. Inadequate footwear may fail to provide the necessary support and cushioning.
Steps to Preventing Knee Pain
Dr. Hirschi recommends the following steps for avoiding knee pain:
- Gradual Progression: To avoid overuse injuries, teens should increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of workouts gradually. This allows the body to adapt to the demands of the sport.
- Cross-training: Encourage teens to diversify their training routines by incorporating activities like swimming, cycling, or strength training. This helps prevent overuse of specific muscle groups.
- Flexibility and Strengthening: Proper flexibility and strength training are crucial. Focus on exercises that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles to improve the stability of the knee joint.
- Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Before and after workouts, adolescents should perform proper warm-up and cool-down routines. Dynamic stretching and foam rolling can help prepare the muscles for activity and reduce post-exercise soreness.
- Rest and Recovery: Rest days are just as important as training days. Adequate rest allows your body to repair and adapt. Prioritize rest and recovery in the training schedule.
- Proper Footwear: Ensure the athlete has appropriate footwear for their sport. Consult with a sports specialist or physical therapist to determine the right type of shoe and any necessary support.
- Awareness: Teens should pay attention to any early signs of knee pain. Ignoring discomfort can lead to more serious injuries. If knee pain persists, consult a sports medicine specialist for evaluation and guidance.
Where to Seek Care
ThedaCare Orthopedic Care specialists can help young athletes experiencing knee pain. Individuals can make an appointment with a sports medicine specialist or visit ThedaCare Orthopedic Walk-in Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain in Appleton.
At ThedaCare Orthopedic Walk-in Care, you’ll see an orthopedic specialist who can order necessary imaging and provide a treatment plan. The provider can also arrange for follow-up care as needed, which may include pain management, physical therapy, a surgery consultation, or other therapies.
Dr. Hirschi stresses the importance of young athletes taking a balanced approach to training and focusing on overall well-being. These are key to enjoying a lifetime of running.
“It’s crucial for parents, coaches, and young athletes themselves to understand the causes of runner’s knee and to take proactive steps to prevent it,” he says. “By following these guidelines and consulting sports medicine professionals, teenagers can not only minimize their risk of knee pain but also maximize their athletic potential and long-term well-being.”